State-Approved Tibetan Language Classes Held Unhindered in Tawu

2016-01-27
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Tibetan language instructors receive ceremonial scarves from well-wishers in an undated photo.
Tibetan language instructors receive ceremonial scarves from well-wishers in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

A series of classes promoting the study of the Tibetan language and taught by university-affiliated instructors has gone ahead with apparent state approval in a Tibetan-populated county in western China’s Sichuan province, sources say.

The classes were held over the winter school vacation and pulled in around 200 students in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Geshe Yarma Tsering, a monk in South India’s Drepung monastery with contacts in Tawu, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Based on the students’ language proficiency, the classes were divided into four levels—advanced, dialectical, intermediate, and beginners,” Tsering said.

“The local Tibetan students in Tawu warmly embraced this crash course and were very attentive during the teachings,” Tsering said, adding that the series of intensive classes was also well received by students’ parents.

Classes were taught by Tawu Gyaltse, a student at the Northwest University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, capital of neighboring Gansu province, and by two university friends, possibly accounting for local authorities’ approval of the initiative, sources said.

At the conclusion of the 20-day winter course in Tawu, a closing ceremony was held, presided over by Tawu Nyatso monastery schoolmaster Geshe Paljor, Tsering said.

Prizes were awarded for top-performing students.

“Bilingual education is a necessity for living in a modern society,” course instructor Tawu Gyaltsen said, addressing students and others at the event.

“Teaching of the Tibetan language should be promoted and strengthened through systematic planning,” Gyaltsen said.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to reassert national identity in recent years, with Chinese authorities frequently closing language classes taught outside the state-controlled education system.

Informally organized language courses are typically deemed “illegal associations,” with tightened security measures in Qinghai province’s Pema (Banma) county recently leading area residents to take classes in secret due to fear of arrest, sources said.

Reported by Sonam Wangdue. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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